So I just finished my college showcase, which is my favourite time of the year.
It is a weekend I cherish, as I get the privilege to watch some young deserving female teenagers getting exposure, inspiration and education towards their dream of playing soccer in college, and also because of the wonderful soccer people that I have the chance to meet and speak with over the course of the weekend.
This year, we invited in two speakers, Canadian National Team player Rhian Wilkinson who flew in from Montreal and gave 2 incredible speeches to our showcase players on Friday night and the college and club coaches Saturday night and Jon Lipsitz, the Kentucky coach, who gave fantastic insight on how his perspective as a coach has changed over the last 25 years in a speech on Saturday.
Two themes emerged in both Jon and Rhian’s speeches. Although they are two extremely driven, accomplished individuals, they both in some way spoke about how success in society is defined in the moment we win or we lose, or score goals or take home Olympic medals, but they’ve learned that it is in fact, about individual people growing every day to become better.
More importantly, they spoke about how it is about those moments of adversity that inevitably come each and every one of our way, and how we choose to react, that define our subsequent path and how high we climb.
Sidenote, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a Mom, who is a walking, living breathing of that life philosophy. It’s been tough to ever get down about anything and not feel the need to turn a negative into a positive, when your favorite person in the world wakes up every morning and dresses your world with a positive attitude from her wheelchair. And this pic below is my favourite one from the weekend and why I’m a UK fan for life.
That being said, as all this inspiring stuff was going on over the weekend, I was messaging with a good friend and fellow GCF coach Tiffany Weimer. She is playing for the Washington Spirit and told me she had hurt her knee and had a bad feeling about what the end result was going to be.
I’ve known Tiff for the last few years, and our soccer journey’s couldn’t have been more different. In college, she broke scoring records and won big-time awards in front of adoring crowds. My college memories on the other hand are a collection of injuries and bench warming moments, of sitting behind bathroom stalls and crying in private, so I could come out and show a happy face to my teammates and coaches.
Tiff used to remind me on a daily basis that she scored 91 goals in college, and I marveled in shock when she told me that she had stayed so healthy that she had never missed even one soccer practice because of an injury. Underscoring our differences again, I can recite every muscle and ligament in the lower body without ever taking an anatomy class because of my many years of doctor’s visits and unfortunate injuries over the last 15 years.
I have also seen Tiff over the course of the last few years morph and change from the person that never had to deal with adversity, into someone who has had to deal with quite a bit. Through this adversity, I’ve watched how she has grown and changed into the kind of person that has had a really positive effect on those around her from someone that only used to care solely about her headband placement and megging people (OK she does still really care about those things but she’s grown as well, an incredible amount, into someone who is much, much more ).
Tiff also, perhaps because of her success, had an attitude that she would be the first to admit that she used to have, of not being a hard worker or a team player. But through the adversity that she started to face through the last few years, she has reacted by being someone that has shed that part of her persona and morphed into one of the hardest working people I know. Being around her passion for the game is inspiring, and seeing how much she cares and invests in the kids we coach to teach them the right way on and off the field has made everyone around her better. She is someone I am proud to have in my life for this reason.
Tiff and I, with our friend Manya Makoski (another inspiring person in her own right) started an academy called girlsCAN Football in Connecticut in 2011. The idea when we launched it was that we were going to take every lesson that we had learned through our own careers and teach the players everything on and off the field in a way we wished we had been.
Part of this was deciding that we were going to be ok with losing, and losing by a lot at first, to teach the players to play possession. And we got smoked 7 and 8-0 regularly while encouraging the girls to keep the ball, and trying to play out of the back, and playing the girls sometimes 2 years above their age groups to give them an important challenge and to learn at a young age how to deal with adversity.
While at first, at least for me, in giving them this adversity on the field, my main goal was to make them better players, an interesting thing happened, which I spoke to Coach Lipsitz and other’s about over the weekend.
On the mental side of things, through presenting adversity, our kids learned how to deal with it and get through it in a positive way, and in doing so, they have learned very valuable lessons in both soccer and more importantly in life, that will serve them far longer than their time on the field.
And this is where I think Tiff’s injury, our little U10’s and what I learned in my conversations this weekend all intersect, and why I know Tiff you will come back ten times the person and player from this ACL. As I said in a message to her, and anyone dealing with adversity, ten years from now, when soccer (or whatever it is that you’re struggling with) doesn’t matter any more, you’ll be ten times the person, player and coach for the growth that will occur for having gone through adversity.
And this is what I think our U10’s learned in getting annihilated 7-0 every weekend and what I know Tiff you’ll get out of this challenge with your ACL-
What Adversity Taught My 9 Year Olds, and What It Can Teach All Of Us
They learned, what I think is the key to life; which is how to deal in a positive way with things when life and soccer wasn’t going their way and how to still have fun and enjoy the moment.
They learned compassion for other teams in a similar situation for when it came a couple of years later, and they started to be on the other end of the score.
They learned that there is nothing to fear in getting knocked down, because it’s only a lesson in how much strength you have and the power that comes in knowing that no matter what happens you can get through anything.
They learned how much sweeter wins can taste when you’ve struggled so hard to get there.
And they learned that tough times are a gift because getting through them and choosing to make the absolute best out of them are where the true champions are found.
So with that being said, Tiff, you’ve got a whole bunch of people, big and little, cheering you on. I know it’s going to be another amazing part of the journey that will lead you to have even a bigger impact on others on and off the field.
And a couple more things before I sign off, just in case you think I’ve gone soft
a) I’m still the boss even if you’re back in Connecticut
b) Please make this be your last serious injury because this whole being nice to you thing is really hard on me.